Trust: The Fissure that BP May Never Cap

“It is trust—not power, wealth, or even love—that is the most important operational resource in our society.” — Irving Wladawsky-Berger

If you’re thinking that Wladawsky-Berger is a poet, philosopher or social critic, think again. He’s the chairman emeritus of the IBM Institute of Technology, and a prominent IT industry leader and innovation guru.

The quote—from a must-read piece on W-B’s blog—underscores a point that many companies are still, bafflingly, just beginning to learn: Trust is every organization’s most valuable asset, and as essential to doing business as oxygen is to breathing.

BP learned this lesson again the hard way this week, as one of its command center photographs was revealed to be digitally altered (or, as we all now say, “photoshopped”).

The change was innocent—a couple of computer screens were added to the image above—but the intent has been perceived as nefarious: “If BP lied about this, what else are they lying to us about?”

Communications professionals need to stop thinking about how they can P-shop and polish the images of their companies and instead focus on the far more tangible, and difficult, objective of building trust.

That’s an entirely different skill set than many communications leaders, especially those with traditional PR or advertising backgrounds, have today. It’s time to reinvent corporate communications.